The final round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series officially got underway today with a pre-race press conference at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nevada, where East and West Lites Champion Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey talked about their winning seasons and their participation in tomorrow's Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Lites Shootout, where the two riders will compete against each other for the first time. In the premier Supercross class (450cc) third-in-points Andrew Short and runner-up Chad Reed attended, but series leader James Stewart surprised the press and everyone else in attendance by not showing up. Stewart revealed the night before that he was not going to attend, without giving any specific reason. However, later in the day, Stewart's publicist sent a release stating that "...James Stewart's non-participation in today's press conference...was a decision made by L&M Racing's team management, not by James Stewart personally."
Little new news was revealed in the conference, but Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Reed did discuss a little about last week's controversial encounter with Stewart's San Manuel Yamaha teammate Kyle Chisholm, who nearly put Reed to the ground after both Stewart and Reed had just lapped him five laps from the end of the race. Though Reed did not fall, it did slow him down just enough to prevent the defending champ from challenging Stewart anymore for the lead/win.
"I've always tried to be honest with you guys and tell my side of the story," Reed told the press, "but who can deny that it wasn't intentional? His [racing] line, the fact that he was a lap down, and the obvious being he is James' teammate. It was a shame. I don't believe Kyle is a bad person. I hear he is a great guy, I don't know him personally, but it seems weird that a good person would do that.
" There is a paper trail a mile long of what his boss [San Manuel team manager Larry Brooks] has done along the way," Reed added. "There're little things that he's done, like the one that stands out in my mind most - sitting Steve Boniface out of race because he wouldn't help somebody [so Brooks took] the rear wheel out of his bike. I find it to be quite amusing, each and everyone of these people sitting in this room, I believe, knows the real truth and what really happened, whether they write that or not."
Last week on the Salt Lake podium, Reed mentioned that he has a teammate, too, and Reed was asked about his teammate, Mike Alessi, and the role he might play in tomorrow's race.
"Mike's his own person," Reed said. "He's going to get good starts and hopefully he'll be in the main event, but there've been no team talks. I went back to Florida this week; we don't roll like that."
Reed talked a little about the season in general.
"I've given it everything I've got this year, and James has been riding great," Reed said. "It's been a tough but fun year, and unfortunately I've been on the short end of the stick most of the time. I feel like I should have won a lot more races than I have."
Reed also talked about the Jacksonville Supercross where he and Stewart exchanged words on the podium. Reed was asked if he and Stewart were close to "coming to blows" afterwards.
Reed chuckled at first then said, "Coming to blows, you've got to have somebody that's willing to throw down, too, so I don't think we were that close to getting ready to throw down. I don't know, I was heated and for good reasons. I don't think any of the racing was dirty [that night], other than when we landed from the triple, he just cut right across in front of me, and I felt that was uncalled for and real dangerous. I should've just kept the throttle pinned and let him land on his melon."
Despite being six points down on Stewart, Reed hasn't even thought about throwing in the towel.
"I've still got a shot at it - and it's a good shot, and I believe I can still pull this thing off," Reed said. "Just like every year, don't count me out. I'm going to give it my all and never lay down. I'm in a great position. Every other time that I've been in this situation, I've been a leader. Now, I'm six points down and I've got nothing to lose. It's pretty much going to be checkers or wreckers. I'm going to race James Stewart the way he has raced me and everyone else since 2002."
Honda Red Bull's Andrew Short talked about his year, the best he has ever had in the premier class. Short has already clinched third in the '09 championship. However, Short is still looking for his first SX-class win, and he feels he has a good chance to do it tomorrow, since he is a big fan of the Las Vegas track. It was here where Short captured his first Lites-class victory.
"I've put a lot of hard work into the off-season," said Short. "It's been a good year for me and the Supercross field is really competitive this season. A lot of guys have come into the class, and it's been a lot more difficult than years past. I like to think that I've continued to improve and all my efforts have been worth it. It's been an amazing season for the sport. Stewart and Reed seem to hate each other, which is great for everyone. It's been amazing. I'm really happy to be such a big part of it."
Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey is hoping to win his third Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Supercross Lites Shootout tomorrow. The winner of four Western Regional AMA Supercross class main events, Dungey won his championship by five points this year after losing the championship to Jason Lawrence last year by just three points.
"The start of the season was a little rough," said Dungey of his year. "I kind of came into this with the perspective that it's a whole new year. To come back and give it another shot was about all that I could do. I felt like I had something that I didn't have before. In the past, I'd turn a bad day into a bad week, but now I realize that winning isn't everything. I know what's most important. When things go wrong, I just need to overcome it and let it go. I can only control so much. I'm excited about tomorrow night. Vegas has been good to me and I'm looking forward to getting out there with a new group of guys."
Pourcel, meanwhile, dominated the Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites class Championship, winning five main events en route to the first AMA title of his career. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider raced in the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites class Championship in 2007, where he picked up his first career AMA win. Later that season he suffered injury that placed him in a wheelchair for nearly a year. But now he's champ.
"With my injury, I was forced to sit off the bike for eight months, but I was ready to go back racing," said Pourcel. "When the time came to get back on the bike, it was my opportunity to come to the U.S. and try to win the championship. It was already exciting to have the chance to come over here and race for the championship, but to know that I wasn't sure if I would ever be able to get back on a bike again and to be where I am right now is a great feeling."
Tomorrow's race will be broadcast live on SPEED, beginning at 7:00 p.m. PST/10:00 p.m. EST.